Tokyo’s agenda meets with alarm

Re­vised strat­egy, more fund­ing flouts paci­fist Con­sti­tu­tion, ex­perts say

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By LI XIAOKUN in Bei­jing and CAI HONG in Tokyo

The de­fense pol­icy pack­age that Ja­pan’s Cab­i­net ap­proved on Tues­day rep­re­sents a com­pre­hen­sive change in Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary ap­proach and is a ma­jor de­par­ture from the coun­try’s paci­fist stance since World War II, in­ter­na­tional me­dia and Chi­nese ex­perts said.

“Abe has used the tim­ing of frozen ties with China to pass le­gal doc­u­ments that en­able the coun­try to be­come a ma­jor mil­i­tary power,” said Ruan Zongze, vice-pres­i­dent of the China In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, re­fer­ring to Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe.

Tokyo is try­ing to “do all the things it wants” at the mo­ment, and the doc­u­ments will guide its mil­i­tary buildup in the long term, he said.

Ja­pan’s Cab­i­net on Tues­day adopted a na­tional se­cu­rity strat­egy and re­vised two de­fense plans — one longterm, and one fo­cus­ing on the pe­riod from 2014 to 2018 that in­creases de­fense spend­ing by 5 per­cent, cit­ing “threats” from China re­lated to the ter­ri­to­rial row over the Diaoyu Is­lands.

“The Self-De­fense Forces will de­velop full am­phibi­ous ca­pa­bil­ity in or­der to land, re­cap­ture and se­cure with­out de­lay in case of any invasion of any re­mote is­lands,” the na­tional de­fense pro­gram guide­lines said.

Based on the strat­egy, Ja­pan will cre­ate its first “am­phibi­ous” unit, sim­i­lar to the US Marines, as part of its ground de­fense forces.

More over, dur­ing the fiveyear pe­riod, Ja­pan plans to buy three drones (likely the Global Hawk), 52 am­phibi­ous ve­hi­cles, 17 Osprey hy­brid he­li­copters and five sub­marines.

The spend­ing will also en­com­pass two de­stroy­ers equipped with the Aegis an­timis­sile sys­tem and 28 new F-35 fighter jets — a stealth plane far su­pe­rior to the F-15 that Ja­pan cur­rently uses.

The five-year de­fense pro­gram asks for about 24.67 tril­lion yen ($240 bil­lion) to pay for the buildup.

The doc­u­ments also said Ja­pan will re­vise its prin­ci­ples that re­strict the trans­fer of arms and mil­i­tary tech­nol­ogy to some coun­tries to “fit the new se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment”.

The pol­icy pack­age came with the es­tab­lish­ment of a USstyle Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil that is ex­pected to con­cen­trate greater power in the hands of a smaller num­ber of se­nior politi­cians and bu­reau­crats.

Abe said the shift will al­low Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary to bet­ter shoul­der its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties on the global stage through what he has pro­moted as “proac­tive paci­fism”.

But The New York Times said in a re­port on Dec 11 that the new strat­egy “of­fered a glimpse of how far Ja­pan has come from a firmly paci­fist na­tion that just two decades ago was still re­luc­tant to ad­mit it had even a lim­ited mil­i­tary”.

The As­so­ci­ated Press said on Tues­day that “Ja­pan’s neigh­bors — and some Ja­panese cit­i­zens — worry that the guide­lines push the coun­try away from its paci­fist Con­sti­tu­tion”.

AFP quoted an­a­lysts as say­ing that much of the weaponry Ja­pan in­tends to pur­chase will re­place ob­so­lete equip­ment, but “the shift in mil­i­tary pri­or­i­ties is ev­i­dent”.

Ruan from the China In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies said Ja­pan will not stop at the three doc­u­ments.

“Next, Ja­pan will try to change its gov­ern­ment’s con­ven­tional in­ter­pre­ta­tion of ex­er­cis­ing the right of self­de­fense. By do­ing so, Tokyo will be­come an un­sta­ble fac­tor in the re­gion.”

Reuters said in an anal­y­sis on Satur­day that “lift­ing Ja­pan’s self-im­posed ban on ex­er­cis­ing the right of col­lec­tive self­de­fense would mark a ma­jor turn­ing point for Ja­pan’s post­war se­cu­rity pol­icy”.

“Abe’s high pop­u­lar­ity rat­ings have been a key fac­tor in si­lenc­ing po­ten­tial crit­ics in the rul­ing bloc. Crit­ics have said lift­ing the ban is more likely to mean Ja­pan gets in­volved in armed con­flicts over­seas that put Ja­panese lives at risk,” Reuters said.

Jiang Ruip­ing, a Ja­pane­ses­tud­ies ex­pert and vice-pres­i­dent of China For­eign Af­fairs Univer­sity, said “there has been a vi­cious cir­cle among Ja­pan’s politi­cians, po­lit­i­cal par­ties and en­tire so­ci­ety that is push­ing the coun­try fur­ther” to­ward right­ists lead­er­ship.

“It will greatly af­fect the or­der in East Asia and ham­per re­gional co­op­er­a­tion,” he said.

He also said that the term “re­stricted” de­fense pow­ers car­ried by old ver­sions of Ja­pan’s de­fense guide­lines did not ap­pear in the new ver­sion.

In ad­di­tion, Jiang said, the moves are ap­par­ently tar­geted at China, mov­ing the center of Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary im­ple­men­ta­tion to the south and the west.

Lyu Yaodong, di­rec­tor of the Ja­panese diplo­macy depart­ment of the In­sti­tute of Ja­pan Stud­ies un­der the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences, said the three doc­u­ments sen­sa­tion­al­ized “threats” from China to “pre­pare for the way for Ja­pan to be­come a ma­jor mil­i­tary coun­try with im­por­tant in­ter­na­tional in­flu­ence to re­al­ize Abe’s po­lit­i­cal ideal”. Con­tact the writ­ers at lix­i­aokun@chi­ cn and cai­hong@chi­nadaily. Mo Jingxi in Bei­jing, AFP and AP con­trib­uted to this story.

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